Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Teaching Seniors to Think About Their Finances Now and Beyond

     When I was working with one of my intervention students last year, we had a conversation about why we don't teach students in school what they really need before living in the world.  He said that we teach higher levels of math and english, but we don't really teach them how to manage their life so they can be successful in whatever they do. They have skills to elevate their work life, but what happens when they bounce checks, get foreclosed on their mortgage, have unbearable credit card debt and find themselves working until they are 75 years old with no money saved.
     This year I will be teaching a Career and Financial Exploration course.  I wrote about students finding their passion and researching and developing a TED Talk about how they will explore their passion in their life in my last post.  Using this piece of the puzzle will be a tool that we will use to build a financial and career exploration from.  I want students to engage in researching and understanding the careers that students can pursue based on their passion.  I think that giving students that base will lead to legitimate conversation on realistic expectations for salaries for the careers that students will be pursuing.  Students need to research salaries in the area they believe they will live and not the national average for a career that has a large hub in another part f the country.  Say a student is looking at computer programming in Detroit, will the salary expectations be the same if they were living in Silicon Valley?
     My students need to look at things like college or trade school.  Does everyone really need to go to college?  There are many trade school jobs that offer higher salaries than some of the "college" jobs that students may pursue.  With that, students need to look at the cost of education and the potential earnings for the career they are looking at pursuing.  If a student spends $200,000 on a college education and finance most of that tuition, should they be honestly looking at a career that will pay $40,000 a year?  How long will it take to pay off those loans.  Would it be a better choice to take courses at a community college and then transferring to a 4 year college than going off to a 4 year college and ringing up debt.
     We will be bringing in Financial planners, mortgage brokers, car loan officers, professionals in students areas of interest, college reps, etc.  to give students contacts and experience with areas of the world that they will need to understand.  If students know what is expected from them when they go in to get a car loan and they have talked with someone in that role, they should be more comfortable when it is time to buy a car.  That goes for the other types of professionals we will bring in.to our class.
     I hope that students will have a better understanding of navigating the world around them and making future impacting decisions with am educated background.  Having students make decisions in their lives based on experience and not based on what they read in a pamphlet, what their friends are doing or what their parents have been pushing will make the preparation for this year worth while!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

TED Ed Club with My Seniors

     I just applied to be a TED Ed Club leader at my school.  My goal is to bring it into my Senior Financial Literacy class.  We will start off the year working on finding out what we are passionate about or as Sir Ken Robinson refers to it - our "Element".
     I want students to think about what they want in life and out of life.  But...I want them to think about how cultivating that passion can positively effect those around them even more.  They need to think beyond what will give them the most money because we all know that that doesn't equate to a happy life.  There needs to be some sense of fulfillment that we get out of our life's work.  It will manifest itself in many forms.  Each specific to those that pursue it. The bigger pay off comes from pouring into another without expecting anything out of it and seeing them succeed.  I want my students to experience the internal reward that comes from paying it forward.
     In the 2004 Olympic Games, Michael Phelps swam in the qualifying 4x100 medley relay.  When it came to swimming in the finals Michael had the fastest time and was automatically in the relay, but he stepped aside for a fellow swimmer to swim in his place.  Ian Crocker had been sick during the week and did not perform as well as he could have.  Phelps gave up his place in the relay to allow Ian to redeem himself and have a shot at the Gold Medal.  The relay ended up winning Gold with a World Record time.  Phelps still received a Gold Medal, since he was on the qualifying team, but so did Crocker.  Many times in life the time and effort it takes us to extend a hand or chance to others seems like a set back at the time, but it often works out better for all involved in the end.
     Student's need to understand that sometimes the path that leads us to where we need to be may not be the path that they believe they were meant to take.  Each experience prepares us for the next path on our journey.  Sometimes there is a path that we did not anticipate that comes before us that may be better or worse than the path that we envisioned.  That may not be all bad, since just over the hill is path that is beyond their their wildest dreams.
     In this world of immediacy that we live in, I hope to help my students see that some things are worth the wait, relationships with others are building blocks to success and our life may end up being different than we dreamed.  And...Life is definitely more fulfilling, if we pursue our passions while living it.
     In the spring, I want to host a TEDx Youth event to shine a spotlight on some of our students passions.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Computer Science in Algebra this Year

     I have used pieces of the curriculum from www.bootstrapworld.org for the last couple years.  It has allowed me to make sure that students have a better understanding of how expressions and functions are evaluated using Circles of Evaluation.  I have, also, used them for composition of functions to give students another way to look at the math.  It has helped my students understand graphing better and how to write equations/functions and how that is different from evaluating a function.
     This year I was using www.code.org in my classroom for their Accelerated Course to give my students a chance to learn some coding.  While we were using this course and some other courses I noticed that there was a course called Computer Science in Algebra and then a course called Computer Science in Algebra: Course A.  The later was the first half of the Bootstrap World course 1.  I was excited to see this, since it has the same feel as the other code.org course that we had been working in earlier.  I thought that the visual approach to the material would be good for my students and it had videos and validation so my students could work and check their results.
     I implemented Course A in my summer school course and received very positive feedback from my students.  They said that it really helped them understand evaluation and and generating functions better.
    I am teaching a couple sections of Algebra 2 this year and am looking forward to using this course to make sure that my students have a strong understanding of generating functions and evaluating them before we continue with generating equations for other types of functions.  Many times, my students think that they have to take in all the information from the story problem and "get an answer" right away.  Even though the question has multiple parts to it with one asking them to 1st - write the function first and 2nd - evaluate that function with the given information.
     I think this will be a helpful beginning of the year and will give them a strong refresher to start the year.

Friday, August 19, 2016

AP Computer Science Principles training in Chicago

     I just spent a week in Chicago with teachers from all over the United States.   We were all there to learn about teaching the new AP Computer Science Principles Course using the curriculum at code.org.  The first time the test will be given and scored for college credit is in the 2016-2017 school year.

     TeacherCon was an amazing experience. The team from code.org were invested in our learning and put in a lot of time and effort to make our experience positive, engaging and informative.  The chance to experience the inquiry and discovery components of the course was invaluable, since the course is set up to be hands on discovery by the students.  Letting students discover how technologies were developed will have a lasting effect on students.  When they are developing their own ideas they will have something tangible to refer back to instead of just memorizing how the previous solutions were developed.

     At this time, my school does not teach any AP courses.  This will be the first in what I hope to be a long line of APs that will available for my students.  AP CSP is an intro CS course that anyone should take in high school. The curriculum does something for our students that not many others do and that is inquiry, discovery and creation of things that already exist, so that they can understand how these technologies and protocols came into being.  This will give my students a solid foundation in understanding of the current technology so that they will be able to improve those technologies or create new.

     I am truly looking forward to implementing this curriculum and opening up possibilities that may not have existed before this course.  This course can give my students a glimpse into how computers are used everywhere in their life and how having a basic understanding can help them in the future.

     A unique opportunity of this AP exam is that students will submit 2 Performance Tasks before they take the 75 question multiple choice test.  The first Performance Task will challenge my students to explore a technology and write about it's impact on the world.  The second Performance Task will have the students create a program and write about their experience creating it and how a section of the code works. This will e great practice for their other classes, since reflection is a large part of the learning process in the course.  Later they will take those reflections and use them in their writing for the Performance Task.  This practice in writing will be helpful in my students being able to formulate an idea or stance and be able to support it through writing.

     I can't wait to get started!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Tech Tip #2 - Teacher Use of Google Hangouts (Free App within Google Apps for Education - GAFE)

We want our students to connect with people outside of our school. They need to see what it is like in other areas of the United States and beyond.  When you only see the little square of land that is your neighborhood, you don't know what your life could be like elsewhere.  You can't see the opportunities that may be just beyond the edge of the neighborhood. We don't want our students to be limited in their dreams and goals for the future.


Tech Tip #2 - Teacher Use of Google Hangouts (Free App within Google Apps for Education - GAFE)

Hello ...,

Google Apps for Education allows Teachers to connect with their students, parent and other classrooms worldwide.  Why would we want to do this?  

Teachers want their students to see the world around them but logistics limit this ability in many cases.  Through Google Hangouts, teachers can
  • During the Global Read Aloud (October 3rd - November 11th, 2016)
    • During this time teachers can set up a Google Hangout with another classroom in Michigan or beyond to read one of the chosen books to both classes.  During this time, students would be able to talk with the other class about the book.  ( I am currently putting together a list of grade level teachers across the US to connect with our teachers that wish to take advantage of this opportunity)
  • During Mystery “Skypes” (we would use Google Hangouts instead of Skype)
    • Teachers set up Mystery Skypes with individual teachers based on their schedule and needs for their class.
    • This activity allows teachers to do pre-work with their students on questioning strategies, narrowing down search criteria, map reading, etc.
    • This activity, also, gives students the opportunity to meet and learn about other classrooms and cultures outside of Pontiac.
    • They practice soft skills when working with the other class.

  • Parent communications
    • For parents that aren’t available to come in for Conferences, teachers can use a Google Hangout to connect in a virtual face to face environment.  (Parents are not required to have a Google account to participate)
  • Experts
    • Bringing in experts in a particular field is generally difficult to do, but many will work with Teachers to do a 10-30 minute Google Hangout.
    • Maybe Authors of Children’s books will talk with a class for 10-15 minutes without the speaking fees normally charged when coming into the classroom or charge a small fee.
  • Professional Development
    • Many teachers use Google Hangouts to connect to their PLN (Professional Learning Network) or other experts to learn, show, teach how to use a particular app, strategy or brainstorm ways to tackle a learning area of growth.


I'm hoping to bring many of the teachers that I have talked with about these opportunities along for the ride.  I know my superintendent is very excited about the possibilities that these opportunities provide our students.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Tech Tip #1 - Administrative Use of Google Classroom (Free App within Google Apps for Education - GAFE)

I have started to document some of the cool features of being a Google Apps for Education (GAFE) School for my Superintendent and Curriculum Director in the form of Tech Tip emails.  As I send them out to my Administration, I will post the email contents here as a reminder of the extension to our classrooms that using GAFE provides.

Tech Tip #1 - Administrative Use of Google Classroom (Free App within Google Apps for Education - GAFE)

Hello ...,
Google Apps for Education allows Administrators to maintain a class within Google Classroom with Teachers as the students.  Why would we want to do this?  

This would allow a class to be set up with Ms. Williams, Ms. Jones and Ms. Janell as the co-teachers. Teachers would be students in this class.
  • Surveys, forms, articles, training, flyers, etc. that are normally sent out through email would be assigned as an assignment in Classroom with a due date.  
    What this alleviates:
    • Teachers searching their email to find the survey, form, etc. to fill out.
    • Teachers not knowing or being able to find the due date.
    • Admins sending multiple email reminders to teachers before and after due dates.
    • Admins searching their email for responses from teachers. (Responses can be recorded, uploaded, etc directly into one location - Google Classroom).
    • Attaching actual files to emails. (Files can be linked directly from Google Drive to the assignment in Google Classroom. No more multiple version of files that untraceable.  Can force the creation of an individual file for each teacher from a template document to each teacher’s account, if individual copies are needed.)

If you have any questions, please let me know.

Kindest regards,


As I document these exciting opportunities for teachers and administrators, I am also talking with teachers and administrators, documenting their needs and concerns, contacting experts in these areas, and creating training for them to easily implement these tools into their classrooms for the benefit of our students.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Flash Blog - Balancing workload

I implemented a new structure for my flipped mastery classroom a couple weeks ago. Students are still getting used to the structure and mastery pieces, so we have not implemented many activities in this unit. We have brought in quizzes almost every day on 2 concepts at a time. This Unit I am allowing students to retake quizzes as many times as it takes to get them correct before the test in a week and a half. 
In talking with students, we have decided to move quizzes that normally happen on Mondays to Tuesday or Wednesday. We meet every other day. We also decided to move the quizzes to the last 10 minutes of class instead of the first 10 minutes. That allows students to ask questions throughout the class period. 
As we move into our next unit, I will be adding in more activities and less practice problems. That will allow them a chance to make a connection to the material other than rote practice. My goal is to not give 50 practice problems and an activity, but to narrow the focus of the practice problems and use the activity to solidify the learning. 
So balancing the practice, activities and quizzes will encourage learning and limit stress.  Instead of trying to give students full sets of everything in the time allowed in class. Sometimes less is more.